We’ve seen it everywhere, in the news, in our own lives: the Left’s policies and liberal cities failing, time and time again, to deliver on their promises. Housing will fix homelessness. Welfare will fix poverty. The right combination of the right laws is society’s panacea—if only the government was given the power to solve the problem.
In some cases, these attempts to increase government power as a means of solving problems are blatant power grabs. However, in many cases, they are an earnest attempt to address the many issues that plague our society. The questions arise: Why does the Left think that increasing government power is the solution to problems? Don’t they know that power corrupts?
The answer lies in the past—fairly far in the past, in fact. Much of the Left’s core ideology traces back to the foundational philosophical beliefs of the Modern Philosophy movement in the early 1800s, but the issue that drives the failure of the Left to solve society’s ills derives its core from a philosopher who rose to prominence a little later, in the mid-1800s. This man saw many of the evils of the post-industrial revolution society: poor working conditions, long hours, oppressive debt, disenfranchisement, child labor, and more. He theorized that all society is made up of two groups of people: the oppressor and the oppressed, or, in this age, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
This philosopher is, of course, Karl Marx. It is in his ideology that the failures of the Left are rooted. This is not to say that all progressives are Marxists or socialists, although many are. But rather, the core of Marx’s philosophy has influenced, shaped, and determined the Left’s thought processes for more than century.
The core of Marx’s philosophy is not the system of communism that he is famous for. It is not the perpetual dichotomy of oppressor and oppressed that he proposed. It is not socialism, or collectivism, or many of the other “isms” that we associate with him. Rather, it is the simple belief that man is a material being, shaped by the circumstances of his birth, the environment of his adolescence, and the current conditions in which he lives. Spirituality and religion are the “opiate of the masses,” designed by the oppressor class to distract, confuse, and pacify the oppressed.
It is the concept that man is shaped by his material circumstances that drives the Left’s constant failure through misunderstanding. If humanity were truly purely material, then more houses would solve homelessness. Welfare would solve poverty. If the man is simply material, then the right combination of laws and circumstances would cure most ills.
But man is not simply material. He is more than simply a thinking animal. Whether you believe in God or not, you must acknowledge that there is something that separates man from beast. We are different. This difference transcends the material and lifts into the immaterial. Spirituality and religion are not the opiate of the masses, but rather a defining and motivating factor in human existence and advancement. Relationships—family, friends, community—are also not of the material realm and neither are virtue, courage, good and evil.
The Founders understood this. They knew that man was more than a material being, and not only that, but they also knew that man had a tendency to act in his own interests against the interests of others. No number of laws, no perfect combination of circumstances can prevent this tendency. Catholics call it concupiscence, or the tendency of man to sin, but most call it something a little simpler: human nature.
In an oft-quoted line, James Madison, the framer of the Constitution, states that, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” However, men are not angels, and they are not governed by angels. Men are men, and men govern men – thus controls, in the form of the Constitution, are necessary. For some 150 years, the Left has asserted that the Constitution is obsolete, and that America’s form of limited government, must be abandoned to create the right circumstances for a perfect society. This assertation supposes that, with the right material circumstances, the men who govern can become angels.
History shows us otherwise.